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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Republicans in Search of New Scapegoat to Hate

"We hate Muslims! Grrrr!"

Protester with 'NO MORE MOSQUES' signRepublicans had hoped to ride a wave of fear and hatred into office, because that's what they do. So they glommed onto the cause of a lunatic backwater blogger, helping to whip up a frenzy of terror over a community center project in Manhattan. It all went pretty well for a while; gullible people really did start freaking out, terrified that the "Mosque at Ground Zero" (which isn't a mosque and isn't at ground zero) meant that terrorists were building a "victory mosque." This went on for a while, but the wave crested too soon and things started to get a little out of hand. "Hot issue" became "hot potato" and suddenly the Park51 project wasn't so important anymore. The Summer of Hate was over and the prospect of a long Autumn Without Hate loomed. It mustn't be allowed to happen.

Since the Cold War, Republicans have been nothing without enemies. They aren't a peacetime party. We're still at war, sure. Two of them, in fact. But the problem with long wars is that they become wallpaper -- if it's always there, you stop noticing it. Muslims were perfect enemies, because it reinforced the far right belief that Bush's War on Terror was really a war against Islam. The wars, although widely ignored now, could be reflected at home. And, like the Cold War communists, terrorists could be everywhere Republicans wanted them to be. So don't think they've dropped the "Muslim automatically equals terrorist" propaganda. It just got a little too hot there for a while, so they had to put it down for a bit. It'll be back.

But Republicans found themselves without enemies within. The "we hate gays!" wedge they'd previously used to divide the electorate had become dull; the GOP may hate them, but most people don't. Polling shows the public is split on the subject of same sex marriage, for example, with opinion moving rapidly against the "we hate gays" position. That territory is being lost, so it was time to retreat from it as well. Who would be the interim boogeyman, scaring the electorate until it was safe to demonize Muslims again?

How about illegal immigrants? They're always handy. And, in an economic downturn, it's easy to convince people that immigrants are taking their jobs. So we're all supposed to hate undocumented people again, because that's the new big hate-fad.

Talking Points Memo:

Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller was asked about illegal immigration at his town hall yesterday, and he said that the country's first priority should be to secure the border. "If East Germany could, we could," he said.


Anchorage blogger Steve Aufrecht reports that during the town hall, he cited his time serving at the Fulda Gap, one point on the former border between East and West Germany during the Cold War.

During that time, he said, "East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow" from one side of the border to the other. "Now, obviously, other things there were involved. We have the capacity to, as a great nation, obviously to secure our border. If East Germany could, we could."

Of course, Miller's demonstrating a typical teabagger's grasp of history here. West Germans weren't clamoring to get into East Germany. The Berlin Wall wasn't designed to keep West Germans out, but to keep East Germans in. Still, getting all anti-Reagan and suggesting we build a wall isn't the worst example possible. For that, we have to look at Georgia, where state Rep. John Yates advocates shooting people at the border, because they're an invasion force, like Hitler's Nazis.

But this anti-immigrant hate may already be showing signs of becoming as much, if not more, of a problem than the anti-Muslim bigotry became. In Latino-heavy Nevada, Sharron Angle seems to have internal polling showing that her own campaign against the brown invaders is backfiring. Her campaign ads featuring scary looking Latinos aren't about illegal immigrants coming from Mexico, she now says, but rather the massive problem of illegal immigration from Canada. No, really.

As it is now, Hispanic voters lean heavily Democratic, but aren't extremely motivated to vote. A recent Pew poll shows that while only 22% of registered Latino voters support Republicans, only 51% plan to vote. If you want to motivate them to vote, a good way to go about it might be to feature them in attack ads. Which explains Angle's backpedaling on her anti-Hispanic campaigning. So this Autumn of Hate may be even more temporary than the Summer of Hate.

Maybe things have cooled off enough to go back to whipping up panic about Muslims again. Really, Republicans need to hate someone.


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